SAARC meeting rejuvenates hopes of tourism comeback

Pokhara, March 15: The 37th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Council of Ministers’ meeting underway in Pokhara is expected to shore up the lake city’s unparalleled reputation of being a tourist haven.

The SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting itself is being held for the first time outside of the capital city of a host member state.
Pokhara, which does not need to be redefined for its beauty embellished with the crest of Mt Machapuchhre at the north, was recently struck with a slump in the number of visiting tourists following the massive earthquake and the blockade at the southern border. The unprecedented development was gaining a pernicious hold on the Pokhara’s tourism entrepreneurs’ energetic demeanour, but the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting has revived hopes of opportunity to bounce back.
The SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting is being held in tourism hub, Pokhara, which is essentially a place blessed with bounties of nature, and such an event being hosted here is a matter of pride, said, Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (REBAN), Pokhara Chairman, Gopi Bahadur Bhattarai.
Bhattarai added that the government should make arrangement for the visiting top officials of the SAARC member states to go on sightseeing tours to observe the real beauty of Pokhara. He stressed the government should make maximum utilization of the opportunity at hand to promote tourism in SAARC countries.
“Along with allowing the officials to go on sightseeing tours in Pokhara, the government must present the possibilities of promoting tourism in Nepal as an agenda at the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting,” Bhattarai argued.
Tourism expert, Nilkantha Sharma, also insisted on letting the foreign officials attending the meeting to relish the tourism façade of the scenic city. He termed the natural infrastructure of Pokhara as an ‘unrivalled gift of nature’, and said the meeting provided an opportunity for an official promotion of the city in the SAARC member countries.
“Pokhara has a rare type of diversity in weather and environment in the world,” Sharma pointed out adding, “From Pokhara the Himalayan range is very close and there is a cultivation of bananas at the same place, and in the world you cannot find such a place where the mountain and banana cultivation is so close.”
Pokhara Tourism Council Chairman, Som Thapa, said the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting ushered in new avenues for promoting tourism.
Nepal Tourism Board former member, Tikaram Sapkota, said the current meeting helped convey a message that such special meetings can take place in Pokhara.
Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Chief of Protocol, Rajaram Bartaula, said the government did have plans to take the officials on a sightseeing tour of Pokhara, but lamented the meeting’s calendar was extremely busy with tight schedules. “We plan to take them on sightseeing tours as far as possible if the time allows,” he said.